Whenever I’ve been dragged out for a walk or a trip that I’m not too keen on we’ll invariably see something that is either unusual or of interest, at which point the Doting Owner of the Spoilt Pony will, without fail, say something along the lines of “See, if you hadn’t come out you wouldn’t have seen that, would you?” She’s quite right of course and together, over the years, we’ve seen some pretty amazing things in and around this beautiful Forest of ours just because we’ve taken the trouble to be out and about when they’ve occurred.
My most recent odd occurrence, however, was not with my lovely wife but with one of my very best friends, Dave, a man I’ve been shooting with for more years than I care to remember, during which time we’ve had great fun together with lots of laughter and never ever a cross word. On this occasion we were standing beside a remote pond, waiting for dusk to arrive, in the hope that we might a bag a tasty duck or two for the table. A lone bat, probably a Daubenton’s, was hawking over the water and we were engrossed in watching it twist and turn in obeyance to its radar when, suddenly, I was conscious of a slight noise and some movement out of the corner of my eye in the direction of my colleague. Instinctively I turned to look and came face to face with the last thing I expected to see especially given the approaching nightfall. A beautiful sparrow hawk had alighted on Dave’s Tyrolean-style trilby and for the most wonderful but brief period of time we locked eyes and stared at each other until, with flick of its wings it was gone - a fast- flying, streamlined killing machine that in a nanosecond just vanished into the failing light.
So sudden and short-lived was the encounter that I began to doubt my own eyes but it was a transitory moment which ended when Dave, who had felt the bird land on his head and was now staring at my obviously shocked and open- mouthed expression, said, “What the hell was that?” I was lost for words, which as anyone who knows me will tell you is a rare occurrence, and when I did manage to find my tongue all I could say was, “A sparrow hawk.”
Dave, who always takes life in his stride appeared unmoved by my revelation and simply replied, “Well, what did it think I was?” It was a good question and it made me recall the late Bill Snudden, who was as bald as the proverbial coot, telling me about a barn owl that pitched on his bald dome when he was roost shooting pigeons in the twilight. He reckoned the owl had mistaken his rounded pate for the top of a fence post, and I assumed a similar case of mistaken identity on the part of the aforementioned sparrow hawk.
Given that I was wearing a camouflage jacket and Dave was dressed in sombre colours it might just be possible that the bird had mistaken him for a handy perch but the two black Labradors that were sitting just behind us must have been a bit of a ‘give away’ to a raptor that is renowned for its amazing power of sight. Whatever the reason I had been witness to a truly privileged incident and quoting the Doting Owner I said, “You know if we hadn’t bothered to be here this evening, we wouldn’t have seen that.” and Dave’s reply? “You might have seen it, but I didn’t. I just felt it!”
Must go now, but before I do, Tracy and I would like to wish you and yours a jolly good Christmas!